Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Will-power vs. Spirit-power

How do you obey?

Think about an area in which you have wanted to obey Christ.

Maybe you wanted to love someone — or forgive someone — or be more patient.

So — what did you do?

For years what I did was try harder.

I tried to reach out in love — tried to feel forgiving — tried to be more patient.

Outside change at best

But as I look back I can see two problems.

Often it just didn’t work.  I would try to love, forgive, be patient — but nothing would change.

But even when it seemed to work — all that changed was my outer actions, and not my heart.

But then I made a discovery that has transformed how I obey —

Another approach

Paul describes it in Romans 8:13 —

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Notice — we put to death the deeds of the body.

One moment the deeds of the body were alive.  The next moment they are dead.

What happened?  I killed them.

So my will-power is involved.  I do something.

But it’s not just my will-power that’s involved.

I do this by the Spirit

The only way I can put to death the deeds of the body is — by the Spirit.

If I said you were to heat the house by solar heating, you would do it a certain way — by solar heating.

Same with how we put to death the deeds of the body.  We do it a certain way — by the Spirit.

What does that mean?

There’s four crucial parts —

First, understand the work of the Spirit.

The main work of the Spirit is to help us see and feel the all-satisfying love of Christ (John 16:14; 2Cor 3:18).  When our hearts are satisfied in Christ — we will love, forgive, and be patient.

But that’s the problem.  The reason I’m not loving, forgiving, and patient is because my heart is not satisfied in Christ.

So what can I do to experience this work of the Spirit?

Second, pray for the work of the Spirit.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus promises that when we ask the Father He will increase the work of the Spirit in us.

So come to the Father in Jesus’ name, trusting that because of Christ’s death the Father welcomes you, loves you, and will answer your prayer.

And then pray earnestly for more of the work of the Spirit in your heart.

Third, wield the sword of the Spirit.

The weapon the Spirit uses to do His work is a sword — the Word of God (Eph 6:17).

He will use the Word like a sword.  As He reveals Jesus to you — the love and power and majesty of Jesus will kill pride, bitterness, frustration, and unbelief.

So open up your Bible, and pray over powerful Scriptures until you feel the Spirit changing your heart.

This morning I prayed over Rom 8:32 and Gen 35:3 — and felt the Spirit killing despair, and worry, and weakness — and stirring hope, and peace, and strength.

Fourth, step out in reliance on the Spirit.

When your heart is feeling peace and joy in Christ — you will be loving, forgiving, and patient.  It won’t just be outer actions, it will be from the heart.

But what if you need to step out and love someone before your heart is fully changed?

Then confess to God your lack of love, ask Him for help, and go ahead and love them — relying on the Spirit to fully change your heart and enable you to obey.  He will.

Will-power vs. Spirit-power

There’s a world of difference.

With will-power it’s just me trying harder.  With Spirit-power I feel the Spirit changing my heart.

With will-power it’s just outer actions.  With Spirit-power my inner desires are changed.

With will-power I’m just feeling obligation.  With Spirit-power I’m feeling Christ’s love so satisfying me that I want to obey.

With will-power what’s magnified is my discipline.  With Spirit-power what’s magnified is Christ’s fulness.

Try this today

Take an area in which you need to put sin to death — and do it by the Spirit.

Let me know how it goes — leave a reply below.

And — if you know someone who would benefit from reading this — email it to them using the “share” button below.  Or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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(Picture by enimal at stock xchng.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience, The Work of the Spirit


6 Responses

  1. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    What a fit and proper posting at exactly the right time, Steve!

    Currently I’m fighting around with my own sensibilities. To be exact, I’m struggling with the fact that I am permanently ignored and shunned by another person. I can do whatever I want to – no response. Not even if I expressed myself directly towards that person – there was no reaction at all. It hurts incredibly. I’m sure that I didn’t do something wrong – in this particular case at least – otherwise the Holy Spirit would have convicted me promptly as He always does. Although I kept trying to forgive and to love – it didn’t work at all.

    So what to do?
    I have no more power to love that person. In order to not avoid that one, I prayed that God would help me and heal my heart. Actually, I’m right in the middle of this healing process and I find it very helpful to pray over Luke 11:13 and Rom 8:13 plus 8:32. What I desperately need is MORE of the Holy Spirit to kill my human reaction (here: inner “strife” Gal 5:20). Trusting that He will give me all things I need, especially peace, love and joy, I can only keep on praying until He will do it.
    Looking forward to being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)…

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I am so glad for the Father’s timing on these posts, Susanne — thanks for the encouragement.

      And if you haven’t seen this already, I share my struggle with forgiveness on this site — check the article found at “Need Immediate Help? / Angry, Bitter, Not Forgiving?”

      Praise God that you are seeking to overcome your bitterness and forgive this person — may the Father fill you with His love.


      • Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

        Thank you so much for your hot tip “Angry, Bitter, Not Forgiving”, Steve.
        Our Father’s timing really is a perfect one because the fact I didn’t read that article before didn’t happen by chance. Reading it today first, it fits like chalk and cheese.
        Just let me explain.

        A short time after submitting my comment yesterday I was out on the town. More and more I felt God’s tenderness caressing my wounded heart and a weight was lifted from me. I wondered why I had felt such deep pain about such a “trifle”. Looking back I know that I experienced much more harmful losses and trauma(ta) in my life than that almost ridiculous thing.
        Returning back home I realized that God had done something “miraculous” because I have received a very kind reply from that person. I told my husband about it, but oddly enough I did not feel happy at all. Therefore I thought about that in peace and quiet (remembering Isaiah 30:15). Between nightfall and daybreak I got very clear about the fact that the “trifle” simply triggered an emotional chain reaction. In my reflection I went back to similar but much more deeper violations in my life when I primarily felt rejected at lowest lewel. This very first experiences were the root which nursed my anger and bitterness. The “trifle” was no more than just the tip of the iceberg.

        After reading your reply today I immediately checked your article – still feeling bitterness inside my heart I couldn’t get rid of. The scales fell from my eyes and I can see clearly that I am the unforgiving servant.

        Using your own words:
        “But I am fighting the fight of faith until the Holy Spirit changes my heart. “Honestly, I don’t feel that now. But by God’s power I will later. I’ve turned to Christ as I am, confessed my unforgiveness, cried out for the work of the Spirit, and set my heart on the truth of who Christ is. I’m sure He will break in to my heart and love me, satisfy me, help me because He promises (John 6:35).”

        Thanks again, Steve. I need your blog posts!

  2. Bill Schuler says:

    I will. I am encouraged!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Great, Bill! Let me know what happens. I’ve had a very strong day today seeking the Lord in the Word and prayer. He’s opened my eyes to His goodness and power and given me wisdom in some areas. He is so good to us.



  3. Susanne Schuberth (Germany) says:

    Finally, I’ve (almost) finished wading through my unforgiveness as for this (above mentioned) person, because I can feel more and more love flowing from Him to me and through me outwards somehow spontaneously. There was nothing I could do but pray and trust. It’s been a tough struggle with several ups and downs but Jesus helped me to persevere despite my on and off painful emotions.

    Christ’s infinite love overcompensates any loss and makes me forget any violation. This healing process has lasted way more than a decade and it’s not yet completely finished. It feels as if God is entering my heart deeper and deeper to clear anything out which stands in His way. The circumcision of my heart (Rom 2:29) does, indeed, always hurt again, but after each further healing phase, I can feel Christ’s love more abundantly than before. Our Lord is not only a healer (Exodus 15:26) but likewise a perfect (depth) psychologist because He knows the hearts He has created precisely.

    “When our hearts are satisfied in Christ — we will love, forgive, and be patient.”

    I absolutely agree with you, Steve, because it’s profoundly true. Thanks again for sharing your own experiences and always providing helpful assistance.

    God bless you!


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